PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — National Weather Service officials have confirmed it was an EF-3 tornado that ripped through an estimated 8 miles of Washington and Jackson Counties on Thursday.

Meteorologist Molly Merrifield said they determine the severity of the tornado based on their damage assessment.

“We had two manufactured homes that were completely destroyed,” Merrifield said. “Unfortunately, that’s where we had the fatalities. Those were strapped down pretty well as well so that’s why we’re going with an EF-3.”

Merrifield said it’s rare to see a tornado this strong in this part of the region.

She also said there was a lot of change in wind speeds on Thursday.

“We had about 60 knots or so right off the surface just without even the storms involved and then we had enough instability and all the ingredients just came right together to produce this really strong tornado,” Merrifield said.

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